Grand Combination Italian and English Opera: Lurline

Event Information

Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Max Maretzek

Price: $1.50; $1; $8 private boxes

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
25 September 2019

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

14 May 1869, Evening

Program Details

The American premiere of Wallace's Lurline was given the night before in English (see event entry of 05/13/69: Grand Combination Italian and English Opera: Lurline: American Premiere). This, the second performance, was given in Italian (as per the company's plan to alternate between the two languages).

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka Lorelei
Composer(s): Wallace
Text Author: Fitzball
Participants:  Grand Combination Italian and English Opera Company;  J. [tenor] Reichardt (role: Wilhelm);  Giuseppe B. [basso] Antonucci (role: Rhineberg);  Wilhelm Formes (role: Zelleck);  Madame [contralto] Reichardt (role: Libe, A Spirit of the Rhine);  Maria Bonfanti;  Fanny Natali-Testa [contralto] (role: Ghiva);  Agatha [soprano] States (role: Lurline);  G. [dancer] Novissimo;  Ettore Barili (role: Baron Truenfeiss);  Theodore Habelmann (role: Count Rodolph)


Advertisement: Courrier des √Čtats-Unis, 13 May 1869.
Advertisement: New-York Times, 14 May 1869, 7.
Advertisement: New York Herald, 14 May 1869, 9.
Advertisement: New-York Daily Tribune, 14 May 1869, 7.
Review: New York Post, 15 May 1869.

“Mr. Maretzek has an English company composed of an American prima donna, an American contralto, an English tenor and an Italian baritone. Of their performance in ‘Lurline’ we have already spoken. Last night the Italian troupe—including an Irish prima donna, an Irish contralto, a German tenor and an Itlaian basso—sang in the same opera, in the Italian tongue. Notwithstanding the diversity of nationalities, there was a pleasant unanimity in the musical performance. ‘Lurline’ adapted herself well to the soft vowels of the Italian language. The recitatives seemed more at home in this lingual garb than in the vernacular, and as the words of ballads and concerted pieces cannot be understood by the listener in any tongue, they, too, sounded pleasantly enough. The scenery worked smoother than on the first night, and the arrangement of light was better. The splendid finale to the second act elicited the usual cordial applause, and Antonucci won an encore in his ballad, ‘A Father’s Love.’ He really does not sing this selection as enjoyably as Orlandini, but elsewhere in the opera adheres more strictly to the notes, taking the low tones where the baritone of the English opera takes the upper octave, or otherwise alters the score to suit his voice.

Mrs. States lavishes on the audience the wealth of her rich, powerful voice, but does not give enough delicacy. Her singing is all as the glare of sensuous sunlight unrelieved by shade. Madame Testa sang charmingly, and the tenor, Habelman, looked well and sang well, but not better than Mr. Bowler did the night before. The two Rudolfs of these gentlemen are very unlike, but each has its merits, and each will gain partisans.

The ballet was superbly performed last night, and Bonfanti and Novissimo were repeatedly applauded, Altogether this production of Lurline seems to combine everything wanted to attract the general public. There are melodious tunes, fine concerted pieces, brilliant scenery, and graceful ballet. If all these fail to attract, we presume that Maretzek and Fisk, convinced of the futility of opera in America, will turn the Academy of Music into an abode for golden-haired negro minstrels. This combination of the popular elements of the leading amusements of the period would be original and certainly inexpensive.”

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 15 May 1869, 7.

“The Italian version of ‘Lurline’ was presented at the Academy last night, with Miss States, Madame Testa, Habelmann, Antonnucci, and Formes in the principal roles. This was a stronger cast than the one of Tuesday, and the whole performance showed improvement over the first representation. The tenor is still the best of the quartette, but the soprano is also good, and Antonucci in at least one scene was admirable. The house was a fair one, but not equal to that of the night before.”

Review: New-York Times, 15 June 1869, 4.

“The second performance of ‘Lurline’ attracted a larger audience last evening than that of the preceding night. The orchestra, chorus, ballet and general mise-on-scene were, of course, unaltered, and the only new feature was the cast, which presented an array of names somewhat stronger than those engaged for the English production. The circumstance of the change of language from English to Italian, is trifling. Few among the audience could have detected the difference, even had they taken pains to do so. It requires a nicer delicacy than Mr. Fitzball possesses to modify the inflexibilities of the English tongue so as to render it suitable for lyric purposes, and in dealing with his unwieldy verse, singers are always compelled to sacrifice either the music or the meaning of the words. The words naturally become unintelligible in proportion to the anxiety of the artist to do the composer justice. On the whole, it is fortunate for sensitive ears that this is so, for a more senseless string of cheap rhymes than the libretto of ‘Lurline’ never disfigured a truly poetic subject. The Italian translator has done his work nearly, and has succeeded in avoiding many of the flagrant absurdities of the original. It matters little, under any circumstances, to what words ‘Lurline’ is sung. No modern English composers, excepting possibly Muefassen, have attempted to convey any national spirit or feeling in their operas. They resemble one another only in one particular—that of endeavoring to produce as many mellifluous and marketable ballad melodies as they can crowd into their three or five acts, and their [sic] is never any pretence [sic] of English character about these. ‘Lurline’ is full of them. Some are of excellent quality, and one or two have an unusual and peculiarly original grace, but they are so numerous as to break the dramatic continuity, and entirely destroy the artistic unity of the work. The excuse for introducing them in such profusion is that their sale alone can compensate English writers for the labor of producing operas at all.

Last evening’s presentation showed considerable improvement in the choral department, where it was needed, and a still greater precision and unanimity on the part of the orchestra than were displayed the first night. The overture, in particular, one of the most brilliant of recent orchestral productions, was capitally played, and deserved an encore as much as any performance of the evening. The representatives of the principal characters sang and acted, on the whole, more effectively than those who appeared on Thursday. Mrs. States’ Lurline was more vigorous and impressive than Miss McCulloch’s, and Mme. Testa exhibited a fervor and spirit which contrasted strongly with the languor of Mrs. Bowler. Mr. Habelmann, as the hero, sang with greater freedom and vocal power, but with less taste than Mr. Bowler, and Signor Antonucci’s superior strength was conspicuous, in the concerted pieces, where Signor Orlandini was comparatively feeble. On the other hand, Signor Orlandini’s ballad singing was vastly more tender and expressive than Antonucci’s. Between Mr. Formes and Mr. Hall there was little to choose. The audience was liberal in applause, and the calls before the curtain were hearty and frequent. The Italian version of ‘Lurline’ will be repeated this afternoon.”